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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
Scripture scholars point out that biblical salvation isn’t just something which will start after our physical deaths; it also begins right now, whenever we die to ourselves, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”
DECEMBER 1, 2019: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Biblical followers of God live in the middle of the tension between what’s actually happening in their lives right now and what they expect to happen in the future.
Over the centuries some religious leaders have been accused of focusing their people’s eyes so intently on the future that they conveniently ignored the painful here and now of their daily lives, a here and now they should – and could – have changed. They didn’t lift a finger, for instance, to help eradicate slavery. They simply taught that there’d be no slaves in heaven.
The prophet First Isaiah could never be blamed for employing that maneuver to avoid responsibility for the world’s problems. Though in today’s first reading he speaks about an ideal future, he was active during a period in biblical history in which no one believed in an after-life as we do today. Isaiah’s ideal future was restricted to the confines of this life.
That’s why the prophet is so concrete when he speaks about that longed-for future. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares,” he proclaims, “and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another.” There’s no eternal bliss waiting for anyone in heaven. We can only hope for peace and tranquility right here and now.
Yet there’s a condition for acquiring this peace and tranquility. We must be open to hearing God instructing us in his paths and walk in his ways. The problem is that some people hear God’s word and carry it out, while others go through life without even noticing the path God expects them to travel. Our sacred authors presume this awareness – or lack of it - effects both our here and now and our future. But the question remains: why do some hear while others don’t?
It’s clear from today’s gospel pericope that the early Christian community frequently reflected on that same question. Though Matthew projects this query into the future Parousia – Jesus’ Second Coming – many Scripture scholars believe this passage originally revolved around the situation many Christians encountered in their daily lives. How come two people from the same background – even the same family – have different reactions to Jesus’ message? Two men will be the field, two women grinding at the same mill; one will be taken by Jesus, the other won’t. The only way to explain it is that one was awake to what was happening around him or her; the other wasn’t.
Just as someone pre-warned that a robber was going to hit their house tonight “would . . . stay awake and not let his house be broken into,” so we’ve been pre-warned that the Son of Man is coming, not only in his Parousia, but also in our day by day lives. Psychologists often mention that unless we’re actually looking for someone or something, we won’t recognize them when they actually arrive. Staying awake is key to carrying on the risen Jesus’ ministry.
That appears to be one of the reasons Paul zeroes in on the same theme in today’s Romans passage. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” he writes, “for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Scripture scholars point out that biblical salvation isn’t just something which will start after our physical deaths; it also begins right now, whenever we die to ourselves, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”
As other Christs we’re expected to challenge the same unjust situations the historical Jesus challenged. Those who believe everything in this world is just going along hunky dory have obviously forgotten to set their alarm clocks.